Discover the uniqueness of four distinct residential spaces of Lahore
By Fareeha Qayoom
he Mughal and the British Raj left their mark on Lahore. There are three distinct styles of architecture and town planning for residential spaces in Lahore.
a) One style is derived from the interior of Lahore or what’s called the old walled city of Lahore with distinct labyrinthine patterns of streets with closely packed brick-faced houses built with internal courtyards and balconies facing the lanes, which continues to this day in cheaper neighborhoods of Krishan Nagar, Gulberg, Cantt, Walton, Model Town extension etc containing 2.5-5 Marla houses, b) the British Raj introduced new patterns of living and urban design by creating residential spaces for their ruling classes in Cantonment, Railway housing at Mayo Gardens and GOR 1 & 11 – introducing the ‘bungalow’ type houses set back from the road, the gridiron pattern of Cantonment and Mayo Gardens Housing gave way to meandering, curvilinear road patterns of GOR I & II, and c) the third style of Town Planning and architecture was introduced by Khem Chand in 1925, creating a new type of cooperative housing scheme called ‘Model Town,’ inspired by the ‘Garden City‘ movement of the 19th century Europe, “a utopian dream for local gentry to live in the European style, tempered with the local conditions of purdah.
Model Town, Lahore, illustrates very clearly how British ideas were transferred to the colonies and how in the replanting process, the graft, brought forth a fruit similar, yet different with a flavor and character all its own,” says Pervaiz Vandal and Sajida Vandal in their book called ‘The Raj’s Lahore and Bhai Ram Singh.’
Unfortunately, all these housing schemes were created on top of forests (Model Town) villages and agriculture lands (Cantonment, GOR I and II and DHA), three of these spaces were created by the Governments (British officers and Pakistan army) and one by a private citizen called Khem Chand (Model Town).
“Napier decided that Anarkali cantonment was to be moved. ‘Why,’ Henry Lawrence remarked to Hardinge, ‘I hardly know except that it is at Anarkali’ and when pressed continually to choose the spot, finally took Henry and John on a mystery gallop to Mian Meer, where he announced that here was the spot. Anarkali was admittedly proving unhygienic, but Henry argued that improving, cleaning and draining the site would have been much less expensive than moving it,’ Lee 2002, p. 280. Once the site had been identified, ‘a large number of trees were planted in the cantonment and all the trees were kept watered by an establishment maintained for that purpose,’ (B & R report, 1869-70, p 4).
However, even by 1883, the cantonments still had a deserted look about them. The Gazetteer of 1883 recorded: ‘They stand in an open and exceedingly dreary plain, originally bare of trees but now gradually growing greener as canal irrigation extends and the trees planted by the roadside and assiduously fostered spring up.” Lahore Gazetteer, 1883-84, p. 166.
The late Gazetteer of 1916 mentions that the site of the Lahore Cantonment once a village called Haslimpur and known later as Mian Mir Cantonment – had been acquired by Prince Dara Shikoh (the ill-fated son of Shah Jahan), who gifted it to his religious preceptor Mian Mir,” quoted from Lahore Recollected an album, By FS Aijazuddin 2003.
Gazetted Officers Residences (GOR I & II)
“A major change in the style of housing came with the Gazetted Officers Residences (GOR colony) on the Upper Mall. The layout was a departure from the gridiron pattern of the cantonment and railway housing of Mayo Gardens. Here the rigid disciplines imposed by the railway and military engineers was cast aside and the street pattern follows smooth curvilinear lines with houses set back from the road. The meandering roads lined by green hedges as boundaries between houses gave a relaxed ambiance. The same spirit was carried over to the gardens, then called the Lawrence Gardens, with smooth flowing meandering walkways. Adjacent to the Lawrence Gardens was the zoo and botanical gardens, making the whole precinct one large park for the relaxation of upper classes.
The Government house and the Punjab club completed the composition as a bastion of power expressed through the built environment. A housing colony for the native government servants, comprising small, two to three room houses, was located on the Multan Road on gridiron streets near the four minars of the surviving gardens called Chauburji, and thus the society came to be called Chauburji Quarters. These were obviously for the lesser people as seen in the bare and utilitarian facilities provided to them. Thus a pattern was set for postcolonial governments to follow. Larger luxurious houses for the senior employees who took the place of the departing British and small two to three room quarters for the juniors, and thus were born the GOR II and Wahadat Colony on Ferozepur Road,” quoted from Pervaiz Vandal and Sajida Vandal in their book called ‘The Raj’s Lahore and Bhai Ram Singh.’
“If any suburb of Lahore could be regarded as the antithesis of its gradual, impulsive and often haphazard evolution, it must be the ordered geometrical symmetry of Model Town. Located five miles diagonally southeast of Anarkali, the scheme was the brain child of Dewan Khem Chand, a lawyer of Lahore. The idea came to him in a ‘faint form’ when he was 14 years old and gestated in his mind during his studies in the UK until finally at the riper age of 32, he published his ideas in 1921. ‘My scheme,’ he wrote, ‘is that within easy reach of Lahore, say within 6 or 7 miles of it, about 1000 acres of agricultural or wasteland be purchased, and on it by built a town with all the conveniences of modern times.’ Khem Chand’s original plan for his ideal town, congregating residents from ‘different religions, different opinions, following different professions and coming from different parts of the country,’ had been to locate it on the Shahdara side of the River Ravi. Deterred by its low lying vulnerability to seasonal floods, he was taken by Sir Ganga Ram to see a wooded area at Rakh Kot Lakhpat to the south of Lahore. Khem Chand confessed that he ‘fell in love with it immediately’,” asserts FS Aijazuddin in his book Lahore Recollected, an album, 2003.
“The most distinctive feature of this town is the geometric street pattern, and it is also the only suburb of its time, which was planned as a self-contained town, with its own recreational and service areas. The town is essentially a square divided into eight parts, with a great circle in the center. The eight parts are blocks ranging from A to H Blocks, J and K, not part of the original scheme were added after 1930. All the eight parts are identical and the plot numbering is the same for each block, making it relatively easy for a newcomer to find an address. Open spaces, green parks and play areas are generously provided, giving a spacious look and a leafy environment. However, the Town has forgotten the man who had the courage to dream and the tenacity to implement it. There is no street, no square or even a plaque that pays homage to the genius who brought it all about,” remark Pervaiz Vandal and Sajida Vandal in their book called ‘The Raj’s Lahore and Bhai Ram Singh.’
Defence Housing Authority (DHA)
DHA may not be the most historic residential districts of Lahore but it contains loads of examples modern architectural practices of town planning Pakistani style that have been developed on the lines of Cantonment, GOR and Model Town – you could call it the synthesis of Pre-colonial and Post-colonial architecture.
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, issue 5, September 2008